Longer GP opening hours 'unimportant' for patient satisfaction, study shows

Extensive GP practice opening hours and the push for seven-day services are not among factors most likely to drive high patient satisfaction with primary care, UK research suggests.

A study of more than 170 GP practices in the UK looked at their performance overall and which aspects of services patients value most.

The researchers, from the University of Lincoln, looked for areas of care where patients' experience of the service fell below their rating of its importance.

Extensive opening hours were ranked by patients among less important aspects of GP practice services, and responses suggested patients felt practice performance was outstripping their expectations for this element of care.

The researchers found that ensuring patients know how to access out-of-hours GP services when necessary, ease of getting appointments, reducing time pressures on consultations, making sure patients felt able to cope with their health problem after a consultation and were involved in treatment decisions were the areas where improved performance would most benefit patient satisfaction.

GP patient satisfaction

Lead researcher Dr Coral Sirdifield, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Health and Social Care, said: 'These findings offer a real insight into the aspects of GP services which are considered the most important by patients and how those aspects marry up with the actual experiences patients have at GP surgeries. This information can help CCGs to determine which aspects of care they need to focus on to provide a service which is both deliverable and suits the needs of the patients.

'Areas relating to GP surgery access such as extensive opening hours, practice proximity and short waiting times were given higher rankings based on what the patients actually experienced, but were not rated as highly when it came to how important they were to patients. This suggests that focusing on these areas is less likely to increase patient satisfaction, and the government's drive for seven-day general practice is not what patients in this survey valued most.'

NHS patient survey data revealed earlier this year that GP practices are maintaining high patient satisfaction rates despite soaring workload.

GPonline also exclusively revealed that patient satisfaction is strongly linked to regional variation in GP funding.

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